what the hell?

Wednesday reading — Dante > everything

What I've been reading

I read Monster, a book I really thought I would like, and I liked the idea of it a lot, but the execution wasn't really doing it for me. But then a friend of mine said that she used to teach an eighth-grade language arts unit with it where they acted out the trial and such and I thought it was actually better suited for something like that than just reading it.

I read Everybody Sees the Ants, which is not as good as A. S. King's other YA books that I have read, but is still quite good. I'm kind of not a fan of the inexplicable appearance of physical objects from Lucky's dreams, though, even though I have no problem with the ants.

I read My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki's debut book, and while it is not a ♥perfect♥ book like A Tale for the Time Being, it is an enjoyable one.

I read Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women, which is a nice collection of short stories all originally published in Japanese and translated into English for the first time here.

I read Hannibal, which I was thinking about skipping because I had this impression that everyone hates it, but it kinda ended up being my favorite Hannibal book even though it simultaneously contains some of my least favorite parts. Like, this is the first book that even has Hannibal out and about being his fabulous Cannibal Sue self, which is what I'm here for, to be honest, so I don't actually care so much that Mason Verger is the most ridiculously over-the-top hatable of the one-off killers, who were never a huge draw for me in the first place, or that I don't totally recognize Thomas Harris's version of the late 90s, a time period I was actually somewhat aware of, or that the ending is actually some cracktastic dubcon pairing fic that may have been written during a sugar high ~*~PLZ R/R AND EAT THE FLAMERS~*~ No, let's talk about what is really important in this book: the accuracy of its treament of Dante.

I was actually pretty impressed with how the Dante stuff was handled. Both of the times that Lecter actually talks about Dante, he makes pertinent observations and backs them with appropriate citations. Now, in keeping with his status as the Mary Sue of this book, the other characters are disproportionately agog at a stunning brilliance that he hasn't actually displayed. Dante is like Italy's Shakespeare, only more so, in that everyone studies the entire Divine Comedy for three years in high school. (Public service annoucement to anyone who was assigned just the Inferno: don't stop there, you're missing all the best parts!) Quoting the fabulous heart-eating poem from the Vita Nuova is yes, a perfectly adequate indicator that Lecter actually knows his Dante shit and a great secret cannibal joke, but it's not some kind of ridiculously obscure text that only Dante wizards know and which obviously means that they must hire him immediately on account of how jaw-droppingly brilliant he is.

Similarly, the lecture he gives as part of his job interview process isn't bad at all—he makes the perfectly reasonable observation that even though Pier delle Vigne is stuck in a suicide tree while Judas Iscariot is lounging further down in the masticating jaws of three-headed Satan, they have a lot in common because one of them betrayed his Lord for money and the other was accused of betraying an emperor for money and both of them responded by committing suicide by hanging, although the fact that Dante put delle Vigne with the suicides and not the betrayers, who are lower, implies that he believed in his innocence, which Hannibal kind of glosses over because it doesn't fit with his thesis. Also, it is 100% accurate that even when someone is otherwise lecturing on Dante in tranlation, they will end up quoting passages in Italian to demonstrate how Dante repeates certain sounds in certain passages to create sound effects, and the groaning and hissing of the trees of the suicides are a superb example of this.

Of course, what makes the Lecter lecture so brilliant is, again, a very clever double entendre where he's actually saying to Pazzi, I know what you've done and you're going to die shortly and this is how, but he's not actually applying for a combined curator/murderer position, so no one who's evaluating his performance is aware of this secret difficulty level. Unfortunately, because if this were actually a combined curator/murderer position Hannibal would, in fact, be the single most qualified candidate and could stay in Florence, murder-curating forever and it would be awesome. At least, to me.

I really don't think that I'm reading Hannibal Rising, though, because no one seems to have anything good to say about that one.

What I'm reading now

Still reading this biography of Marcus Aurelius, which is highly entertaining. Did you know that young Marcus had a certain rhetoric tutor, Marcus Cornelius Fronto, whose correspondence with him happens to survive even though he wasn't actually one of Marcus's favorite intellectual or philosophical influences or anything, and they both devote a lot of words in those letters to playing a rhetorically-sophisticated game of "I love you more"/"No, I love you more"? The fact that it doesn't appear that they actually liked each other much at all is what makes it so hilarious.

What I'm reading next

New Temeraire book! :D

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  • Current Mood: geeky geeky
I did know about Marcus Aurelius and Fronto (I mean, I should, after all). :) If you're interested in reading more about them, the place to look is Amy Richlin's work: she's published a translation of the letters, and her website indicates she's still working on a book about the reception of them. There is a (not terribly positive) review of her translation in the BMCR here, if you read French. (And everyone should read Amy Richlin, because she is AWESOME.)

Edited at 2013-08-14 08:55 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I put in an interlibrary loan request for Marcus Aurelius in Love, so with any luck I should get it soonish. The snotty French review actually makes it sound even more interesting. :)
Hooray for ILL! Amy Richlin is my faaaaaaavorite Classicist (seriously, I fangirl her *SO* much). :)
if this were actually a combined curator/murderer position Hannibal would, in fact, be the single most qualified candidate and could stay in Florence, murder-curating forever and it would be awesome.

I wish to subscribe to this series! Well, when I stop giggling, that is...
"And over here in temporary exhibits we have a series of waxworks depicting the nine circles of Dante's Inferno."


"Very lifelike, are they not? Our curator crafts them in his spare time."

"Are those…are those flies on the waxworks?"

"Yes, his attention to detail is superb."

"This exhibit is temporary, you say?"

"Oh, don't worry, there'll be another one to replace it soon enough."

Edited at 2013-08-16 03:14 pm (UTC)